Quadriceps strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the muscles that make up the quadriceps group. The quadriceps are the large group of muscles in the front of the thigh. They consist of four muscles in each leg that run from the hips to the knees.
The Quadriceps Muscles
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A quadriceps strain can be caused by stretching the quadriceps beyond the amount of tension or stress that they can withstand.
Factors that may increase your chance of a quadriceps strain include:
Quadriceps strain may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. Your thighs will be examined for:
Imaging tests evaluate your leg muscles and surrounding structures. They may include:
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment depends on the severity of the strain. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:
Your muscle will need time to heal. Avoid activities that place extra stress on these muscles:
Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, 4 times a day, for several days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.
To manage pain, your doctor may recommend:
Compression can help prevent more swelling. Your doctor may recommend an elastic compression bandage around your thigh. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tight.
Elevation can also help keep swelling down. Keep your leg higher than your heart as much as possible for the first 24 hours or so. A couple of days of elevation might be recommended for severe strains.
Rehabilitation with a physical therapist may be required.
Use heat only when you are returning to physical activity. Heat may then be used before stretching or getting ready to play sports to help loosen the muscle.
When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Stretch several times a day.
Begin strengthening exercises for your muscles as recommended.
To help reduce your chance of a quadriceps strain:
American Council on Exercise
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
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Muscle strains in the thigh. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00366. Updated March 2014. Accessed September 26, 2014.
10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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